Apple could address shortcomings of the AirPods 3, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max with future update
It seems that Apple is looking to narrow the gap between the AirPods 3, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max and their competitors. As it stands, the AirPods 3, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max only support AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, both significantly lower resolution options than Qualcomm aptX or Sony LDAC, for example. Also, iPhones do not support high-resolution Bluetooth codecs either, forcing expensive wireless headphones to use the inferior AAC codec.
A recent update within beta firmware implies that Apple is toying with enabling LC3 (Low Complexity Communication Codec), a Bluetooth audio codec that delivers superior audio quality compared to SBC. Introduced in 2019 as a replacement for SBC, LC3 offers a 345 kbps bit rate and with better fidelity than SBC manages. The same is true at other bit rates, such as 160 kbps or 192 kbps.
Currently, firmware version 5A282B enables stereo LC3 for the AirPods Max. However, the AirPods Max rely on the same H1 chip that Apple uses in the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro. Hence, there should be no reason why Apple could not enable LC3 across all H1-equipped devices, particularly as LC3 offers greater energy efficiency than SBC. Hopefully, this is not the first sign of LC3 arriving for a future AirPods device, rather than Apple's existing audio products.